New Delhi: August 22, 2015. (PCP) Pakistan called off next week’s crucial NSA-level talks between Sartaj Aziz and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, after neither side blinked on its stated agenda for the dialogue.
"Pakistan reiterates that the scheduled NSA-level talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India," a statement by the Pakistani Foreign Office said, putting an end to speculations after daylong dramatic developments.
Islamabad said it had "come to the conclusion that the NSA talks would not serve any purpose if conducted on the basis of the two conditions laid down..."
The move came after Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj gave Islamabad time till midnight to provide an assurance that the meeting would focus only on terror, and Kashmiri separatists would not be made a third party in their diplomatic engagements.
“There will be no talks,” Swaraj declared on a day of sharp public exchanges, when asked what would happen if Pakistan did not accept the position outlined by her.
Swaraj said there had been a spike in terrorist attacks and firing along the Line of Control (LoC) since the July 10 meeting in Ufa. The ceasefire on the LoC was violated 91 times since then and there were attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur, where Pakistani terrorist Mohammad Naveed was captured, she said.
“Productive talks can only be held in an atmosphere free from terror and violence,” she said, adding Prime Minister Narendra Modi had noted that talks will be lost in the din if bomb blasts continue.
The minister addressed the media hours after Pakistan’s NSA Aziz said he was willing to come for the dialogue on August 23-24 if India did not set any preconditions and insisted that Kashmir must be a part of the agenda.
Reiterating Pakistan’s rejection of India’s advisory that he should not meet the Hurriyat leaders, Aziz described it as a “new condition” and a “wishful narrative”.
“Keeping in mind the spirit of the (1972) Simla agreement, don’t make Hurriyat a third party to the talks, and keeping the spirit of Ufa (in Russia), don’t expand the subject of talks beyond terrorism,” Swaraj replied. “Pakistan is saying Kashmir is the core issue but they did not say so in Ufa.”
She was referring to a meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries who had agreed to the NSA-level meeting in the Russian town last month, aiming to resume a larger peace dialogue.
But the trip came under a cloud when Pakistan’s high commissioner to New Delhi Abdul Basit called leaders from the Hurriyat and other Kashmiri separatist groups to meet Aziz in the city.
India said Pakistan's stance on the Hurriyat is a departure from the understanding at Ufa, where the NSAs were mandated to talk only about terrorism, and a specific agenda on the issue of terrorism was given to Pakistan three days ago.
India’s determination to not allow the separatists to be a party to the engagement was reflected in the detention of JKDFP leader Shabir Shah and Hurriyat’s Bilal Lone as soon as they arrived in the Capital to attend a scheduled reception for Aziz in the Pakistan high commission on Sunday.